2013 Oregon State Hare and Hound
2013 N.O.R.A Hare and Hound
As I sit here during my Monday lunch break I figured I better write this race report without delay. Why? Because the older I get and the longer ago the event, the faster I was. If I write the report next Friday, I will have lapped everyone. Twice. You see, I am not afraid to admit it, I live in Oregon and I like desert races. Don’t get me wrong, I love riding in the woods, and I do it every chance I get. But there is just something about the desert. I may not be the fastest guy out there, or the smoothest, but I sure do love me some throttle twisting, eye blurring racing action. And yes, I know some of you young bucks and old legends would get positively bored riding at my speed. But can we just let this mid forty-year-old dad have a moment? Good. And thanks.
Back to the Oregon State Hare and Hound. This really was a great event. No, let me take that a step further; this was a fantastic event. It has been a long time since we have raced on the north side of Hwy 20. If you were to compare this to past events you have to reach into the way, way, way back machine. But peering back several decades, I honestly cannot remember a better event out there; one better laid out, better ran, better anything. NORA, the Northwest Off-road Racing Association, ran an impeccable event. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it rained pretty much all day prior to the race. Yup, that’s right, it rained in the desert. In May. Enough rain that the brown dirt ran deep, and the traction was superb. Yeah, it’s better to be good than lucky, but when the two come together, look out!
I am not so sold on this part. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love the idea of a mass start, and had I gotten a decent one, I would’ve just left this paragraph out. But I am not so sure that mass start and gravel pit really go together. Can the BLM really not find a single 100 by 400 yard patch of sage brush that we can use? I am certain that the punishment I took on that start is outlawed in at least 7 states and 2 territories as cruel and unusual. Perhaps we can appeal to their humanitarian side? (DEPR- Dirt for the Ethical Protection of Riders!) I did learn something new about riding gear though. For instance, did you know that your biceps have virtually no protection while riding? I mean, your helmet, gloves, goggles and armor offer a reasonable amount of protection against flying debris, but your biceps are merely covered in thin silky material that makes you look like joe cool rider, but offers nothing against massive amounts of roost. Put another way, my arms look like I lost a bet with 10 of my bestest buddies, whereby they were then allowed to let loose with any paintball gun of their choosing at 10 paces. Ouch. Well, OK then, enough whining. Lets move on.
Races that have 55+ mile long laps are not won on the start. While I knew that before the start, sometimes a little ‘positive reinforcement’ is necessary. Either pin it and pray to get the holeshot, or back off and fix it later. We’ll just chalk this one up to ‘lesson re-learned’. I chose the painful middle ground, took my licks, and hit the trail somewhere about 10th place. Due to some over-exuberance of a couple riders blowing corners in front of me, I moved up a couple places before we rode back around the pit, and settled into what seemed a decent pace perhaps 8 bikes back. All seemed to be going as it should. It was going to be a long race and I knew things would shake out a bit in the miles ahead.
Unfortunately, I was only a mile or so past the trailhead when my throttle started sticking. No, not oh-my-gawd-ima-gonna-die wide open sticking, mine was sticking closed. My best guess is the throttle housing on the new 350 sustained some heavy artillery fire on the start. This broke the plastic bit where the two cables run into the housing. The result was the throttle would sometimes open all the way, sometimes only ¼ of the way. When it did that, I would have to back out, re-twist, and repeat until I got the throttle level I desired. This was more frustrating than anything, with the thought that if it stuck in wide open position I was probably going to take a dirt nap. It was getting progressively worse up until I got to the split that Rick G. was guarding. I stopped there and we fooled with it a bit, looking for the culprit. Neither of us recognized what the problem was, but the re-adjusting we did seemed to help, and the problem mostly disappeared until nearly the end of the race.
For those of you that have never ridden Millican, you’d not be aware of the reef rocks that seem to be anchored to the center of the earth. A lone strategically grown 3 inch high reef rock will end your day right quick at 60mph. Fortunately for me, I did not hit any nasty surprises and had an absolute blast trying to make back some time. Fast stuff, twisty single track stuff, man was I having fun. The 350XCF I was riding was not my first choice for a fast style desert race, but after all was said and done, it did not leave me disappointed. There were plenty of sections that I longed for my 450, but all in all it was a real hoot.
Then, I hit that cattle guard. That big, bright yellow cattle guard. No, I didn’t crash. Let me explain. Cattle guards are not like rocks. They don’t sneak up on you, or pop out from behind a juniper tree. No, you see them from a long way off. I certainly saw this one coming, and I can offer no valid excuse for doing what I did.. You see, from my perspective, having just had so much fun the previous 45 miles or so, it looked like a launching pad. A ramp. Ohh!, this will be fun, I thought. I can fly, I thought. And it was fun. And I did fly. And then, I saw the rock. If you raced this event, you know exactly what rock I am talking about. Dead center of the cattle guard about 40ft down the road. Yeah. I landed on it. Fortunately I saw it coming while doing my lame flying chicken routine and was able to spool the mighty-mite 350 up to 13 million gazillion RPM and get the back tire to come down first. No, I did not crash. But the pucker factor was pretty high, I am sure in the low 9’s. When rubber met rock, tube met rim and I promptly let all the air out of my rear tire. It was a dumb rookie mistake, but there you are. You know, I have heard that it is not ‘lots of rocks’ that cause flats, it is only one rock. I found my one. I am not quite sure how far this was from the pits, but I can tell you it felt like for-ev-er. And it only got worse when on a double back fence section I saw that I was a mere 30ish seconds behind class leader DNF Dave, with not a thing I could do about it except get back as quickly as I could. Towards the end of the loop, on the section running parallel to the highway I caught and passed a tractor trailer heading to Brothers. It was then that I had a momentary second of clarity and I questioned the wisdom of riding sand whoops, pinned, no air in the rear tire. I thought ‘if things go too far sideways, some passerby on the highway is going to witness a bona fide yard sale. But, as is normal while racing, that momentary thought passed, and I got back on the gas. I flogged it like a stolen horse back to the pits and a fresh tire, dropping as little time as I could along the way.
Note to self. If you keep a spare tire/rim combo for fast change at a race, make sure it has the same size sprocket as the one you are replacing. Oh, and wheel spacers that work on them new fangled giant KTM axles. After a wheel change that seemed to take forever, but probably was a tad faster than that (thanks Joe), I was ready to roll. I changed the flat before running thru the scoring scanner, which allowed me to run a complete 2nd lap with no interruptions or uncalled for delays. With a couple exceptions, it was a pretty uneventful lap, but boy was it fun. The soil was now the perfect consistency for traction. I may not be a super hero, but I sure felt like it. 2 wheel slides into corners, a heaping hand full of throttle halfway around, and grinning the whole time. Did I mention how much fun I was having? Even the Prineville-like draw that slowed me down on the first lap just had nothing for me. There was one longish section of red cinder road with sweeping corners that you could ride as fast as you dare. I dared to ride it fast, and caught another bike about halfway along it. Except for the start of this race, I have never been roosted so hard in all my years! I would brake a bit later into the corners and get right close, but coming out of the corners he would hit me with a fire-hose sized stream of red rocks. For the first 5 or 6 corners, I could get close enough to shake hands, but never close the deal, and that was downright painful. I did finally make the pass, and though it may make me a bad person, I roosted as hard as I could for as long as he was close. If I was not in a hurry, I would have slowed down, just to roost him some more. Yeah, um so I’d like to take a moment to say I am sorr….oh what am I saying. I am glad I did it, and I would do it again!
To say the remainder of the lap was uneventful would not do it justice. It was an absolute blast. No, I never caught Dave. I took too much of penalty with the tire thing, and he was going pretty hard. I did make time on the class leader that lap, nearly minute and a half and just a few seconds slower than 3rd overall. I would have loved to turn that lap into a battle for first, but for now I guess I will have to wait for the rematch. All in, I am pretty happy with my 7th overall placing at the end of the day. As usual, I just cant let the story pass without taking a lick at the 30 Expert class., So, hey you kids, you need to speed up a bit, oh, and get off my lawn!
To those that promoted, laid out, setup and tore down, good job! The course was great, the people were great, and I can’t wait for next year. To those that stayed home? Maybe next time you can borrow a set of big boy pants and mommy will let you come out and play at what undoubtedly will be another fantastic event. As for the rest of the races this year, the other clubs are going to have to step it up a bit if they hope to come close to this one.